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Learn about shingles, how you get it, and who is at risk.

About shingles

Shingles is a painful, blistering rash caused by the same virus as chickenpox (varicella zoster). Most people develop shingles in one part of the body. The blisters can last for several weeks.

The nerve pain from shingles can be severe and last for months. The pain can prevent you from doing daily activities such as walking, sleeping, or visiting with friends and family.

People with shingles may develop other problems, such as scarring in the area of the rash, skin infections, weakness, loss of hearing or vision, or paralysis (being unable to move part of your body).

Some people with shingles may need to be in the hospital if they are very unwell. In very rare cases, shingles can cause death.

Learn more about shingles.

Who is most at risk?

You are at risk for shingles if you had chickenpox in the past.

Your risk for shingles is higher if you have a weak immune system or if you are 50 years of age or older. Your risk of shingles gets higher the older you get. You can develop shingles if you got the chickenpox vaccine, but the risk is very low.

About 1 in 3 Canadians will develop shingles.

How do you get shingles?

If you had chickenpox disease in the past, you can develop shingles. The virus stays in the nerve cells in your body. It can stay there for many years and not cause a problem. But for some people, the virus can become active again and cause shingles, especially if you have a weak immune system or are older. It can occur more than once.

Current as of: June 30, 2023
Author: Provincial Immunization Program, Alberta Health Services
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